Living and coping with depression.

What To Do When Your Partner Has Depression?

Being in love when your partner has depression is a really tough position to be in, if you’re not sure how to handle it. It may mean loving a person who, while they may love you, cannot always express it in the same way you might. It may mean being confronted with an understanding of reality you cannot share.

It may mean helping someone fend off a terrible darkness that you’re not prepared to fight. It may mean feeling frustrated and powerless. Without the tools, knowledge, and total commitment to the person you love, being with someone who has depression can be a very rocky road. But if you’re sure about your feelings and are ready to stick around, then you and your love will be important to helping them get better.

It all starts with understanding that, at times, this may be an uphill battle. But it’s still a relationship. That means you’re there for each other, you for them – and them for you. Relationships go both ways, so as long as you’re both willing to support each other and work hard together, then you’re ready to proceed.

Supporting your loved one will require knowledge, time, and self-help. Start by learning more about depression, taking the time to listen to your partner and help them engage treatment options and approach therapy, and learn ways to take care of yourself and your emotional needs as well.

Be More Than a Rock

The first thing I would like to address is that it’s important to take care of yourself when you’re in the role of the caregiver.

Relationships where depression becomes a major issue are all extremely different from one another, and depend highly on the personalities of those involved, as well as the severity of the depression and any coexisting conditions.

It’s harder to live with and love a partner who regularly contemplates suicide, than it is to be with someone who may have dark days, but can still get up in the morning, and continues to stick to their schedules.

But from the point of view of the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife supporting their loved one, never forget that relationships are not meant to be one-sided, and they don’t have to be, even with depression.

If you’re completely invested in someone else, and commit yourself fully to them, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs – not just to your detriment, but to theirs as well.

It’s a common trope to see yourself as the rock in the relationship – like an unmoving lighthouse illuminating the dangerous rocks in the ebb and flow of your partner’s depression, keeping them safe from harm.

But you’re not immovable or unyielding. You’re human, with human needs and vulnerabilities. And in a relationship, two people work together to provide each other with love, comfort, and happiness.

Accepting Them

You must be certain that the person you love makes you happy, despite moments of depression. You must ask yourself if what the two of you have is worth investing in, because once you commit, it is far too cruel – and very difficult – to pull away.

After that, it’s important to remember to take care of your emotional needs as well. We can’t rely on our partners to bring us happiness: a relationship isn’t about serving your significant other, and it’s cruel to see your partner as nothing more than a way to be happy.

If you’re going to help them with their depression, you have to work on your own emotional balance as well, and seek out what makes you happy, and pursue it.

Be more than a rock in their life – be the person who loves them and supports them, but also the person who has the strength to smile and be genuinely happy even in dark moments. That’s not something you can fake and trying to will only tear you down as well.

Be There

The first step is to be there. That’s pretty much it, to begin with. Being there does a lot to help out, especially early on, when knowing they’re not alone can make all the difference in the world.

The key to being there is to be there without judgment or oppression, without snide remarks or offhand comments that can be hurtful or painful.

A person with depression will often take the punishment without ever letting you know you did anything hurtful, until they snap and break down.

Start by understanding how your partner thinks, and what’s most likely to set them off. Depression does make people more sensitive to what might otherwise bounce off a healthy ego, so reserve any “banter” or playful criticism for your friends and understand what you can and can’t say around your partner.

Start by considering how you might feel if a voice constantly criticized you, day and night, for months at a time, to the point where you begin to believe it and let it drive you. Consider how you might take a comment or criticism if your ego was nonexistent, and your pride eliminated.

Helping your partner build a healthy sense of self is one of the important goals of therapy, but it can take time to get there. Be more sensitive about how you speak with your partner and consider how they process your language rather than being defensive and not taking responsibility for your words.

Hone Your Communication Skills

Being able to listen is very, very important in any relationship, but being able to communicate is so much more important. Be clear and be explicit.

When you have fears, doubts, or worries, don’t hide them from your partner to make things “easier”. Compiling these feelings is the start of a rift that, with time, becomes impossible to close.

Communicate with your partner often – but understand what it means to listen. Not just hear but listen. That means taking into account what your partner says and being accommodating. There is no room for a big ego in a relationship between two people, which goes for both you and your partner.

While this seems like general relationship advice, it’s doubly important when depression comes into the picture. On dark days, depression the bad feel worse, and the good feel nonexistent.

On good days, your partner may still have this lingering feeling that they don’t deserve a relationship, let alone a good one. Use your communication skills to work out problems and avoid drawn-out conflicts, coming to terms with one another over disagreements – but also use your skills to impart on your partner how much they mean to you, and never miss an opportunity to express your love genuinely.

Learn More About Depression

Your ability to help your partner with their depression will depend mostly on how much you know about depression to begin with. To that end, learning more about depression is very helpful, both for you to understand why your partner might think they way they do, and for your partner, so you can better support them.

Consider talking to their therapist or asking for a couple’s therapy session, as well, if your partner is okay with that.

If your partner doesn’t go to therapy, going together to begin with can be a good alternative to asking them to go alone. They’re more likely to consider the idea if they don’t have to face therapy on their own.

Know the Difference Between Encouragement and Bullying

It’s very easy to get frustrated when your partner is going through a depression, particularly if you have never experienced anything like it. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between feeling down or lazy, and being depressed – and that encouragement, negative reinforcement, and passive aggressive commentary is going to do far more harm than good.

Here’s what you should never do when your partner is depressed:

  • Yelling at your partner
  • Pushing them to get it together
  • Accusing them of being passive or slow about their treatment,
  • Pressuring them with unanswerable questions or bullying commands (like “get it together” or “just snap out of it” or “do you like being this way?”)

Not only is this type of treatment harmful and painful, it’s also entirely useless. Instead of helping your partner, taking out your anger and frustration in this way only reflects that you’re powerless and angry about it, and that leads to further deepening your partner’s fears and anxieties, causing their depressive voice to grow louder and more powerful.

The Bottom Line

Negative reinforcement has limited application. You can push an athlete to grow stronger by feeding their pride and competitive drive through accusations of weakness or laziness.

But someone who is emotionally vulnerable does not need another voice shouting them down and making them feel worthless.

The key to being a supportive partner is to be supportive.

That means building your partner up, showing them their strengths and helping them work through their weaknesses, guiding them along a path that allows them to trust themselves and believe in their own abilities, rather than pummeling them like an old punching bag.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are, in theory, antithetic to each other. Anxiety is a high-stress state of mind, best described as a form of persistent fear. It makes people high-strung and worried.

Depression, on the other hand, is a state of low mood – and in most cases, low energy. People who struggle with severe depression sometimes find themselves paralyzed by an inability to find joy in anything. Where anxiety makes the mind hyperactive, depression shuts down any desire to be active.

Yet the two go together like bread and butter. Despite depression and anxiety clashing at first glance, many who struggle with one diagnosis also have the other.

The question then becomes: why? Why do so many people struggle with both?

Why They Appear Together

Anxiety and depression share many risk factors. This means someone with depression is far more likely to develop anxiety as well.

The relationship between these two can be traced to the way they influence thinking.

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by low mood, but it’s diagnosed mostly based on how a person responds to certain questions regarding how they feel and what they think.

  • People with depression are more likely to have low self-esteem, consider suicide, and struggle to find reasons to continue going to work or pursuing their hobbies. They also find themselves consistently sad, for weeks at a time.
  • People with anxiety struggle with fear, but their thoughts are similar. They are plagued by insecurities and worries, constantly thinking of the worst possible outcome, and expecting it as a result.

It’s important to differentiate between feelings and disorders, although the distinction really just serves to draw a line between something temporary and something requiring treatment to overcome.

We all feel depressed at times, and we all feel anxious at times. Context-appropriate sadness, even the severe kind, is normal. It’s also normal to feel insecure and anxious regarding an upcoming event or challenge, especially if we have previously experienced failure.

But when these feelings exceed past context-appropriate moments, it shows that there’s more going on than just a human reaction to life’s challenges.

Depression and Anxiety in the Brain

A variety of studies suggests that the majority of people diagnosed with major depression also struggle with generalized anxiety, which is a persistent fear of negative outcomes, regardless of the context.

Some – up to a third, in one study – had symptoms of panic disorder, which is a very severe form of anxiety that causes a person to suffer panic attacks frequently.

There are several biological causes for depression and anxiety. Hormone imbalance caused by a thyroid disorder or a brain disease – such as a tumor – can cause mood disorders as well as personality changes.

Chronic pain triggers depression and anxiety in patients who struggle to cope. Other disease that affect the body’s hormone production may also lead to a mood disorder. Dietary deficiencies, including those caused by disease, can lead to these conditions.

Some suggest that both depression and anxiety can be tied to abnormalities in the brain – an inborn chemical imbalance – but there’s not enough evidence to suggest that that’s true.

Most likely, depression and anxiety are psychological conditions triggered by a consistent exposure to stress, coupled with an inadequate response to said stress.

People with a family history of mood disorders are more likely to develop them, which suggests that something in our genes makes us more susceptible – more sensitive – to things that cause depression and anxiety.

How Anxiety Develops

Traumatic stress is more likely to lead to depression coupled with a form of anxiety, namely PTSD.

Traumatic stress can be anything from childhood abuse, to abusive relationships, witnessing the death a close family member or friend, surviving assault, and so on.

However, the brain doesn’t have to go through psychological trauma to develop these conditions.

Persistent stress, such as bullying at school or being ostracized at home, can contribute to both anxiety and depression. Finally, some people develop these conditions without clear triggers, usually in their 20s.

For most people, however, all this information may be interesting but seems ultimately useless.

That isn’t exactly right – knowing why depression and anxiety coexist so often gives us a hint on how to help people who struggle with both.

Research suggests that having both conditions amplifies the effect of each disorder.

For some, the depressive symptoms are stronger.

For others, it’s the anxiety that feels the most unbearable.

But they can both be treated the same way – by understanding them better and tackling them the right way.

Overestimating the Problem, Underestimating Yourself

The common thread between depression and anxiety is the overwhelming problem, and the underwhelming self. More than just a matter of optimism vs. pessimism, depression belies the belief that you can achieve anything – instead, life seems like a constant cascade of failures, and anxiety is the ubiquitous fear of the next failure.

Tackling this construct is what therapy is about. But whether it succeeds in making the message stick depends on the rest of the treatment.

Depression and anxiety are disorders that cannot be tackled half-heartedly – a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Therapy is one aspect, but we’re more than just our thoughts. A couple suggestions include:

Encouraging people to change their lives, adopt better lifestyles, seek support from friends and family and seek alternative treatments (from herbal supplementation to yoga).

How Effective is Medication?

Medication can be helpful. In severe cases, the right antidepressant will not only treat the symptoms of depression but will help a lot with anxiety as well. Medication should never be seen as a perfect cure – instead, it buys time for other treatments to work their magic in the long-term, while reducing symptoms enough to cope effectively.

Anti-anxiety medication can also help, but anti-anxiety medication is generally riskier than antidepressants are, both in terms of side effects and potential dependency.

Living with both depression and anxiety is difficult, but it’s by no means untreatable. There are several treatment options, and the best one is likely going to depend on what you can afford, and what works best given individual preferences and differences. One thing that is clear is that these are not two conditions that should be treated separately. Their overlap is more than just a coincidence, and thankfully, a treatment approach that takes both into consideration often works just fine.

Gotta Treat Them Both

Let’s address medication first, to get the elephant out of the room. Anti-anxiety drugs are called benzodiazepines, and they’re a weaker class of drugs, and are similar to sedatives, tranquilizers, and barbiturates.

These drugs induce a relaxant effect and increase dopamine in the system. Their side effects are relatively low compared to previous anti-anxiety medication such as barbiturates, but they’re still risky to use for a simple reason: addiction.

It’s possible to build up a tolerance to anti-anxiety medication, making the drug ineffective, and causing symptoms to return.

However, they still have their use, prescribed in the short-term for panic disorders and other very severe anxiety symptoms.

Herbal alternatives include kava, but keep in mind that this plant is subject to much controversy and was banned in Europe due to the potential of liver poisoning due in high doses. However, many see this as an overreaction – studies show conflicting results, and there’s not enough research for the FDA to consider kava dangerous.

Antidepressants are also shown to be effective in the treatment of both depression and anxiety but be mindful of which ones you take. SSRIs have the least number of side-effects, but that does not make them entirely safe.

While black label side effects – such as an increase of suicidal tendencies – are very, very rare, antidepressants can commonly lead to temporary weight gain and sexual dysfunction.

Treatment Without Medication

Outside of severe cases of depression and anxiety, it’s possible to treat them both without the use of prescription drugs. Herbal remedies are not always effective, but it doesn’t hurt to try them and see which work, and which don’t.

Next, we have therapy, exercise, and special techniques. CBT and DBT are the two most common therapies applied in a 1-on-1 setting – they both focus on the concept of influencing your behaviors and emotions by changing your thoughts. Therapeutic activities like meditation, mindfulness training and journaling are often prescribed in conjunction with therapy to further practice what CBT teaches.

Exercise can help fight depression and anxiety through the regular release of dopamine, an increased sense of self-accomplishment, and better self-esteem.

Exercise also leads to muscle relaxation, reducing skeletomuscular tension (which ties into anxiety), metabolizing excessive stimulants such as caffeine, as well as natural arousal neurotransmitters like adrenaline/epinephrine and thyroxin, effectively helping us calm down and relax after training. It’s important to choose a type of exercise you enjoy.

If you hate running, try dancing, strength training, swimming, martial arts, etc. The list goes on and on.

Other Techniques

Finally, special techniques can help reduce stress and relieve anxiety at the end of the day. Yoga has many excellent relaxation techniques, including a number of stretches to relieve tension throughout the spine and neck, especially from hours of sitting.

These stretches in turn improve blood flow, but also reduce stiffness and pain. Learning how to breathe properly (and deeply) by activating the diaphragm (rather than breathing into the upper chest) also has a direct effect on the mind and our anxieties.

Anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand and treating them means treating them together. However, you won’t really know what works best until you try it.

Journaling for Depression

It might sound absurd to suggest that sitting down to write about thoughts and feelings can in any way have a substantial impact on the way you think, or how you approach your problems. But that’s essentially what therapy is – guided thinking, helping you become aware of problematic thoughts that lead you down dark roads of self-harm, self-loathing, and self-destruction. In much the same way, journaling for depression can further help you improve what you’ve been figuring out at therapy.

However, if done without some mental preparation or consideration for where your train of thought is going, journaling can also backfire.

There are limits to how effective journaling can be. It’s important to understand that depressive thoughts have a long list of causes, and “thinking differently” is not always a solution to these causes.

Journaling can help you cope with stress in the aftermath of an event that left you struggling with symptoms of depression. Think of it this way – you can treat a wound, but if the cause is internal rather than external, then you’ll need to treat further. A plan that tackles all the symptoms, instead of stopgap measures.

That doesn’t discount journaling or its potential, especially on a person-by-person basis. For some, sitting down every day and writing is a path to salvation. For others, it’s little more than a waste of time. But before you decide on which side you fall on, give it a try, and give it some time.

Continuing Therapy on Paper

There are many names for it. Self-relations therapy, self-therapy, self-counseling – and so on and so forth. The idea is that you can resolve issues without professional help, using certain techniques.

As part of the concept of self-help, there is one flaw to begin with: while therapy does ultimately involve the self, the help part must be external. Relying on yourself is a good practice, but it’s not an absolute rule. Learning to accept help from others is a big step in confronting depression.

You must come to terms with the idea that you deserve help, and that you need it, too.

Help from friends and family is important, as is their support in your treatment, including journaling.

Guided self-help, for example through the Internet or over the phone, is also more effective than simply reading a book on how to feel better.

Journaling for depression is best used as a tool to continue working on things you figured out through external help. That doesn’t mean professional help, but consider talking to a friend about your problems, and getting their input.

Early on, it’s almost impossible to look at your thoughts from a different perspective. Hearing something positive from someone you trust can be a good start to realizing that there’s more good going on in your life than your depression would have you think.

How Journaling Can Work Against You

There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. As mentioned elsewhere, the ability to be mindful of your thought processes is like observing a traffic jam from above, rather than sitting right in the middle of the “action”.

However, journaling isn’t always ideal. Reflective exercises such as journaling give a person the time and format to consider their thoughts differently. That’s the essence of mindfulness, and therapy as well. But without proper guidance, this can backfire.

Instead of giving you a better perspective, one that may be less negative, it may cause you to instead get hung up on your own thoughts. Living too much inside your head causes you to lose perspective, and to instead come to even worse conclusions, with even more negative thinking.

It’s important to be prepared, and to know what your goal is. Journaling for journaling’s sake can lead to aimlessly drifting around in your own head. But if you have a goal – that is, for example, to find one positive thing to write about at the end of the day, no matter what it might be – then you can avoid the issue.

Tips and Methods

Journaling affords a certain amount of freedom. The rules for journaling are quite simple – you basically want to set up a writing project that you work on regularly, for helping you figure out your feelings.

It doesn’t really have to conform to any other rules unless they’re self-imposed – you could write a story, create a diary, explore your depression by reviewing art, create poetry, write music; the list goes on and on.

Here are a couple tips to consider, if you’re not quite sure how to get started or what to keep in mind:

Consider starting a blog.

Instead of keeping a journal, you can consider starting a blog. Blogs are digital journals, and they are typically hosted on the internet – blog meaning weblog.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your blog private. Keeping it in blog form and keep it password protected. This way, you can write from anywhere in the world, using only an Internet connection and any device that can connect to the Internet.

It’ll also never go lost, existing on the Internet forever, for your eyes only – or anyone else you selectively choose as a reader.

Use pen and paper, rather than going digital.

Everything may be converting into 1s and 0s, but if you prefer to keep things more analog, pen and paper has its advantages – especially if you invest a little in a nice pen, and some quality paper.

A sturdy and qualitative notebook can live a good many years, and there’s something much more personal about writing with a pen you can call your own – one that is unique, feels good in your hand, and writes beautifully.

Use Twitter or create a daily list of unpublished tweets.

The length of a journal entry is meant to reflect the thinking you’ve been doing on your feelings and thoughts.

But if your goal is to write regularly, journaling will quickly turn into something forced. Some days, you need to sit down and work through your issues.

But on other days, instead of writing something uninspired, aim to write something that encapsulates how you feel, in a sentence or two. Use the first sentence to describe what bothered you today.

Then think about that sentence, and respond to it with a second sentence, or a longer entry at some other time. For example: “Today, I felt that I was lazy. However, I still got work done, despite all difficulties and distractions.”

End your writing session with something affirmative or positive.

Journaling for depression can cause you to spend too much time trapped in your own head. It’s meant to be a healthy way to confront depression: that is, depressive thoughts that are false, and self-deprecating.

But journaling without rules can send you into a spiral of dark thoughts, and leave you feeling worse than before. It might be unnatural at first but make it an imperative to end each session with something positive.

Look back on what you wrote and see if it was actually true. Counter emotions and feelings with facts – give yourself credit where it’s due or find a silver lining. No matter how forced it might feel, it’s important to use journaling for depression as a way not just to express your feelings, but to examine them.

It’s not easy to find the right words to put to paper, sometimes. Then there are the days where words just come gushing out of you, and time passes as pages fill up. It’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to be flexible with your rules.

You can write something short one day and write your heart out the next. What matters much more than what’s actually put on paper is what’s going on in your head while you write. Progress can be a little slow sometimes, but with time the act of sitting down to write will automatically kickstart the process.

Journaling Helps You Gather Your Thoughts

Being aware of your thoughts and whether they’re logical or illogical is important. Depression is not something that dominates your every thought, every day – it’s always there, but there are normal thoughts and depressive thoughts.

We have thousands upon thousands of thoughts a day, and many of them are inherently false and depressive when struggling with depression.

These thoughts include things like “it’s all my fault” when it definitely is not, “I can’t get anything right” when you in fact rarely make mistakes, thinking “nobody liked me” after coming home from a party or gathering when in fact everyone had a good time, or thinking “I did a terrible job” at work when you managed an issue better than anyone could have.

The list goes on and on, but there’s a common thread between these thoughts – they distinctly warp reality and change your perspective on events after the fact, turning positives into negatives, blinding you to good things and making you focus on just the bad.

Journaling for depression might not help, but in many cases of mild depression and in some cases of severe depression, taking these thoughts apart on paper can help you improve in the long-term.

You start evaluating your thinking, first in hindsight, and eventually in real time, stopping a line of thought before it grows. It takes time, but with time, you can turn your false thoughts into fact-based thinking – seeing things clearly, for what they are, rather than what the depression makes them out to be.

It doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy, or that your thoughts will always be positive. But they’ll be true. Something you can affect with time.

Depression in the Workplace

High workload and fears of unemployment are driving more and more workers into depression and disability. Statistics show that, almost half of early retired people stopped working due to mental health problems – depression in the workplace was the leading cause.

Depression and other emotional complaints are also playing an increasingly important role in sick leave: they are now the second most frequent diagnosis of all sick leave.

Since 2000, the number of days lost due to depression has increased by almost 70 percent.

Depressed in everyday work

Although annual sick leave has declined on average since the mid-1990s, the number of mental sick leave increases. Much of these mental illnesses are due to depression.

For fear of not getting behind the job and even losing the job, many people go to work even when they are injured. They do not get sick, although they actually need time and rest to recover. The physical complaints are simply ignored.

The body, which is in any case stricken anyway, is exposed to permanent stress due to the pressure of time and performance at work. As a result, employees are finding it difficult to concentrate and the mountain of work is growing. This development is one more reason to go to the office despite the fever and pain. A vicious circle arises, perpetuating depression in the workplace.

At some point, affected workers can no longer meet the performance requirements and mental health problems are added to the physical ailments. The danger of slipping into depression is now given. At least now a sick leave is inevitable.

Why does work make you sick?

The steadily growing number of depressive illnesses has many reasons. Technologies such as the Internet or mobile have changed the scope of work and hours of work in recent decades.

Today, individuals have much more work to do in much less time. Everything has to go faster and workers have little room left for recreation and leisure activities. The necessity for a healthy body rest periods are often too short.

Depressed by overtime

According to a recent survey from, almost every fourth European now has at least six hours of overtime per week due to the high workload.

Many can’t switch off after work, even if they are finally home. Many of the professionals still work in their free time. Three to four overtime hours per day increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 60 percent.

Depressed by permanent availability

As early as 2011, when surveyed by the Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Funds, more than 80 percent of respondents aged 18 to 65 had the feeling that they needed to be available to clients, colleagues and supervisors to be reachable on their mobile phones and even work after work. This long-term burden can make you sick and lead to depressive moods.

Which work makes you depressed?

Many employees often feel exhausted and overworked. Many shift and night workers suffer from sleep disturbances as their body doesn’t lag the postponed daily rhythm.

Frustration builds up in them and they can no longer gain positive experiences of success in their job, but just feel fundamentally overwhelmed. Other symptoms such as joylessness, disinterest, insomnia and loss of appetite are added.

If private problems such as the loss of a friend or family member, partnership conflicts, or fate blows, the overburden can lead to severe depression.

Incapacity to work due to depression

Severe depressions can usually only be treated with powerful medications such as antidepressants. Affected people are no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate machinery. They can no longer pursue their profession and are considered unfit for work.

If the ability to work despite strong treatment of chronic depression is still severely and permanently impaired, those affected can apply for redundancy. Whether a pension entitlement exists, the respective pension insurance of the employee decides.

Recognize mental illness in the workplace

A “first aid” can be to give those responsible security in dealing with the sensitive issue and to help employees in crisis situations in a concrete case. Timely intervention helps to prevent major crises.

Absenteeism can be reduced, and the know-how of the affected employees remains in operation. In companies, everyone should be more open about mental health issues and disorders; because only employees who dare to address a psychological crises at an early stage can be helped on time and in the long term.

It is often colleagues who first observe a change in behavior – sometimes these are the symptoms of a mental illness. These signs shouldn’t be ignored:

  • the person concerned is indifferent or dismissive or even aggressive
  • he is subject to strong mood swings
  • is isolated and closes
  • it shows declining performance or strong performance fluctuations
  • nothing dares to do anything, seems generally uncertain
  • makes many breaks and is conspicuously often ill
  • feels “bullied”, personally attacked or attacks others.

When abnormalities are perceived, it is important to approach the person concerned and respond to the changed behavior, as early intervention by employees and colleagues may prevent more serious consequences such as job loss.

Comments like “Pull yourself together!” at the workplace are completely out of place because depression, anxiety, or alcohol dependence are serious illnesses that can’t be dealt with, with just a bit of effort. Depression in the workplace is a serious issue. It’s critical to get help to overcome this illness.

Are Herbal Remedies for Depression Effective?

Depression treatment is often simplified into two categories: medication and therapy. However, that does not discount other treatments. Yet among the many different alternative treatment options for depression, herbal remedies for depression are arguably among the more controversial.

At their core, pharmaceutical drugs are either directly derived from nature, or synthesized based on derived chemicals and compounds.

However, there are many “natural medicines” that are therapeutically effective without pharmacological intervention. These herbal remedies for depression can be effective, but the operative is “can”. Just like medication, it’s important to approach herbal remedies with caution and the understanding that they may or may not treat the symptoms of your condition, or that they may negatively interact with other medication you’re taking.

Because most herbal remedies for depression are not as tightly regulated or thoroughly researched as drugs are, it’s difficult to endorse an herb. Kava root, for example, has historically been used in South Pacific cultures in local beverages, and anecdotal evidence as well as some research suggests it has relaxant and anti-anxiety effects.

However, it’s unknown if the effects of the root are therapeutically relevant in most people, or only work for some. What this means is that you should give herbal remedies for depression a try – but know that not all of them are going to be effective, and just like medication, it’s important to shop around to see what feels best.

What Herbal Remedies Are There?

There is no shortage of herbal remedies for depression. Some of these are more effective than others – St. John’s wort has the most research surrounding it, while kava is effective not only for depressive thinking, but for anxiety as well.

John’s Wort

St. John’s wort has long been considered an effective form of treatment for depression, greatly affecting serotonin levels in the brain. However, concerns exist that it is not consistently effective in treating depression, and that it may not help most people, as well as the fact that it can interact negatively with certain medication. Only take St. John’s wort after consulting a professional, and after a proper diagnosis of depression.

Kava

Kava, a drink made from the Ava root, is native to Polynesian cultures and has been shown as an effective anti-anxiety medication. However, concerns surrounding kava’s effects on the liver have rendered it banned in Canada and Europe. It’s still available in the US.

Saffron

Saffron is a very expensive spice, usually harvested in the Middle East. It consists of the red stigmas and styles of a beautiful lavender flower. However, if you can afford to regularly indulge in saffron – through flavored rice, couscous, soups, and teas – the herb may improve depressive symptoms.

Valerian

Valerian root is native to Europe and West Asia and is usually used to treat insomnia and anxiety. It may also have an effect in cases of depression.

Chamomile

Chamomile extract, taken orally, has been proven to have a significant anti-depressive effect – meaning, enough to warrant that it is more effective than a placebo might be.

Hawthorn

The Hawthorn bush’s leaves berries and flowers are used for a myriad of natural treatments, including deworming, healing rashes, and treating heart disease. Some research shows it may also have an anti-depressive effect.

Ginkgo

Native to East Asia, this distinctive plant with fan-shaped leaves is legendary in Asian medicine and is one of the oldest tree species on the planet. Its medicinal use spans thousands of years, and it may be effective in helping relieve depressive symptoms, alongside respiratory issues, memory problems, dizziness, leg pain, and more.

Other Options & Supplements

Herbal remedies for depression are not the only ones in the market. These alternative supplements are all compounds sourced naturally and sold as supplements rather than medication.

Omega-3

Sourced mostly from fish, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for brain health. We get omega-6 from a variety of sources, but omega-3 is rarer. Most vegetarian diets struggle to maintain adequate levels of omega-3, and it’s a good idea to supplement. A significant imbalance between the two fatty acids is linked to health issues.

5-HTP

5-hydroxytryptophan is a chemical linked to improving and better managing mood disorders, but it should not be mixed with other serotonin-increasing supplements, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as SSRIs, SNRIs, etc.)

SAMe

S-adenosylmethionine is also available as a supplement but is naturally produced by the body. Studies show it’s potentially effective for depression treatment, but it is not therapeutically approved by the FDA. It’s made from methionine, an essential amino acid, and ATP, the energy chemical produced during cellular respiration.

DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone is a natural steroid and hormone, which has been linked to depression. Low DHEA may exacerbate depressive symptoms, while a dietary supplementation of the hormone can improve them.

Because it’s a hormone, this is a potentially dangerous supplement, and it’s important to consult a medical professional and get a thorough blood test to determine whether it’s safe to take DHEA, and how much. Only DHEA sourced from animal protein is effective for depression treatment.

Zinc

Zinc is linked to testosterone production, as well as mental function. This mineral also raises the availability of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a good idea to take zinc supplements with fish oil.

Folate

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is often prescribed to pregnant women and children. Foods fortified with folic acid are also abundant, and work as supplementation for a balanced diet. Legumes and leafy vegetables are a good source of folate, while folic acid supplements have been shown to increase the effectiveness of antidepressants.

Food Sources vs. Supplements

The rule of hand is that if you can get something through your diet, it’s best to do so rather than utilize supplements. However, there are exceptions. Certain supplements are highly bioavailable, and very difficult to source effectively from food. For example: animal protein contains tryptophan, which increases the production of serotonin. But 5-HTP is an effective supplement for individuals with depression, where dietary tryptophan isn’t enough to make a difference. Zinc and folate, on the other hand, is best sourced through food rather than multivitamins.

Omega-3 is one example, as not everyone lives near an abundant source of fish, may be worried about mercury content, or may be allergic to seafood. While fish are a better source of omega-3 (because fish oil contains EPA, rather than the less bioavailable DHA), there are many algae and seed-based vegan options that are also hypoallergenic. Relying on plant-based sources of omega-3 is shown to improve the body’s ability to convert DHA into EPA, suggesting adaptability.

Canola oil and sunflower oil are generally quoted as good sources of omega-3, but they contain much more omega-6. Studies show that a severe imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 is not only detrimental to a person’s health, but extremely common due to the industrial usage of seed oils in food manufacturing, and for cooking. It’s best to avoid seed oils, and rely on virgin coconut oil, and virgin olive oil, and clarified butter for cooking (in moderation), as well as algae and flax seeds for omega-3.

A Good Diet Affects Depression

Don’t forget your micros. It’s very tiring to keep track of everything you eat, but multivitamins are not an effective way to cover any nutrients you may be missing. Instead, simply try to get a balanced diet. Rely on local vegetables as well as homegrown herbs to cost-effectively cover your vitamin and mineral requirements.

While some fruits are high in vitamin A and C, it’s generally best to eat fruits sparingly and focus on consuming more vegetables, specifically carrots, leafy greens, and legumes. A modest amount of meat and fish can help cover zinc, iron, and B vitamins, as well as your basic amino acids. Finally, a complex and fiber-rich carb like potato or brown rice will aid in digestion. Even if your body requires a highly restrictive diet – one without lactose, legumes, and seafood, for example – there are still ways to source the nutrients you need.

Mixing Herbs and Medication

Be careful mixing medications with herbal remedies for depression, and certain herbal supplements with each other. Just as medications have certain other medications that should be avoided due to contraindications – dangers and adverse effects – there are similar concerns when mixing certain supplements and drugs. Tryptophan supplements, any serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and St. John’s wort don’t play nice with each other, and can potentially lead to dangerous or fatal levels of serotonin in the body, causing heart attacks and more.

The safest thing to do is consult a medical professional who knows your exact medical history. Otherwise, make a list of medications that you take and see how they interact with supplements (and other medications). Many resources exist online for checking contraindications.

Take the Multi-Pronged Approach

The fight against depression is never over in a night, but a lot of it takes place overnight. Getting enough sleep is critical to treating a depression – as is getting a complete diet, avoiding foods that your body doesn’t agree with, regularly engaging in exercise, doing something reflective to take time and confront your feelings, and finding a way to maintain a healthy social life as well as a fulfilling job or place in school.

The way to treat a depression is multi-pronged, approaching the disease at all angles and focusing not solely on a single possible cause or symptom, but on the body and mind. Even then, there is no guarantee that your depression will go away in its entirety. Some people are born with a brain that struggles to process happiness.

But all this means is that they will have to manage their depression over the course of a long and potentially happy life. Treatment today has come a long way to help people deal with all sorts of possible causes for depression, from individual environmental stressors, to significant trauma, hormone imbalances, a myriad of brain and endocrine diseases, gut problems, and much more.

It won’t just take you, but the cooperation of friends and family. No matter how skilled a therapist is, the people you spend the most time with ultimately have the most effect on you, and they must understand what your depression is and how to work with it.

Don’t rule anything out. From acupuncture to cognitive-behavioral therapy, there are dozens of approaches that have, in the past, have shown to be significantly helpful in the fight against depression.

ASMR for Depression: Fad or Effective?

ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to an experience where a visual or auditory stimuli produces “brain tingles”, usually characterized by a tingling sensation on the scalp or neck, sometimes traveling down the back, all the way towards certain extremities. But many use it not just for fun, but for relief. So just how effective is ASMR for depression?

The short answer is that ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) can help with depression, but it’s not effective enough to count as a form of treatment or therapy. ASMR can be an effective tool for managing specific symptoms, including feelings of anxiety or discomfort, but it’s not the same as talk therapy.

It’s also not guaranteed to work with everyone. It’s generally agreed upon that people who experience ASMR feel relaxed or positively stimulated, and it seems that ASMR can help deal with anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and feelings of discomfort. More than that, ASMR shows great promise in treating insomnia, especially if the insomnia is induced by overthinking, anxiety, or pain.

What is ASMR?

ASMR is a relatively common response to very specific visual and auditory stimuli. Think tapping, brushing, slow, and deliberate actions like folding towels or massages, watching someone slowly drink an ice-cold soda in a cool, sterile room with good lighting, or closing your eyes and hearing the gentle jingle of the ice cubes hitting the glass.

Because it usually induces a physical touch response to something visual or auditory, it’s compared to synesthesia, which is when a stimuli associated with one sense, instead produces a response in a different sense (i.e. seeing sounds, hearing colors).

Synesthesia is surprisingly common, although in relatively small forms. As a child, music would turn into vivid imagery in my head, with a consistent visual theme for different kinds of music.

The effect was more vivid for music I would play with my violin – pressing my ear close to the instrument while I played made entire scenes and colors play out in my head.

Some children smell colors, or associate sounds with images. Dozens of forms of synesthesia have been officially recorded. In much the same way, ASMR is quite common – but its therapeutic application is barely researched. That’s what we’ll go over today – plus, of course, the potential for ASMR as a tool for managing depression.

There is a large list of potential sounds and visual cues that kickstart ASMR. Anything from going up and down a plastic comb with a chopstick to hearing soft whispers can make you feel that “tingle”, which is then accompanied by several feelings going off in your brain.

ASMR in Research

ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, has been studied long enough to confirm that it exists and has a purpose – but the name itself doesn’t have a scientific background.

Instead, it was reached through consensus on the Internet. Will colloquial terms ranging from “brain tingles” to “head orgasm” and “unnamed feeling”, the concept of ASMR had been floating online for years. The term was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, in a post on a Facebook group she created to discuss the feeling.

Allen explained that she decided upon the term to objectively describe the feeling she and millions of others had experienced – a spontaneous sensation, in response to an external trigger.

ASMR is tough to quantify or explain scientifically because it hasn’t been observed in a controlled environment. Studies surrounding ASMR have largely been conducted using self-reporting as a measure for the effectiveness of ASMR in producing feelings of euphoria or relieving low mood.

Several scientists in the field of neuroscience proposed that while the feeling is probably real, there is no way of completely understanding what it might be until it can be better observed through brain imaging technology.

Tom Stafford, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, England noted that synesthesia existed as a concept as far back in history as ancient Greece but has only recently been studied enough to be taken seriously in the scientific community, having previously vanished into obscurity after brief attention was given to the idea in the 19th century.

Much the same way, ASMR is likely to be significant in further studying how senses work in the human brain – but that doesn’t mean it’s a valid way to treat depression.

ASMR in the Brain

Instead, ASMR opens the door to better understanding why certain stimuli might be linked to conventionally irrelevant senses. Why do we feel a tingle in response to sight or sound? The answer might lie in the somatosensory cortex.

This is a piece of your brain that basically links stimuli to senses, and as expected, there can be some crosstalk with certain types of stimuli. If you feel a tingle near your ear in response to hearing and watching an ASMR video on ear cleaning, chances are it’s because your brain already associates the sound to the physical feeling, so hearing it almost makes you start feeling it.

Hearing a barber’s shears go over hair might make you feel a sensation in your scalp akin to getting a buzzcut. Male or female voices whispering might make your neck hairs stand on end, as though you can feel the speaker’s breath on your skin.

It’s not always an accurate match between the sound and the tingle, but quite often, there’s an individual physical response attached to a specific sound. Responses to ASMR videos may be based on experience, and susceptibility to ASMR may be based on how strongly you feel about certain sounds and triggers.

ASMR and Depression

As far as efficacy for depression treatment, there is nothing that suggests ASMR helps treat depression. But it can alleviate a low mood.

Depression is not always a severe disorder – sometimes, people experience depressive symptoms as part of a temporary episode in response to a tragic event or too much stress.

While they still can’t “snap out of it”, mild depression can be treated in ways a more severe disorder cannot. ASMR may be one way to help people soothe their mind and feel better, especially in the evening hours.

Much like hypnotherapy and mindfulness therapy, ASMR seems to elicit the same mental response that puts people in a calm state of mind, combatting anxieties.

It Shows Great Promise for Insomnia

Insomnia has many causes, particularly linked to pain and discomfort. Anything from arthritis and allergies to depression, back pain and Parkinson’s can inhibit a person’s ability to fall asleep or gain a healthy night’s rest.

However, sleeping aids do exist. While medication is one option, another that is rapidly making the rounds is sleep hypnosis, as well as ASMR videos focusing on helping people fall asleep.

Surprisingly, for quite a lot of people, these videos help. They’re not the end-all-be-all of sleeping aids, but especially in cases of anxiety and psychologically-induced insomnia, ASMR videos can help put someone to sleep through pure relaxation.

These videos essentially work by taking your attention off the pain and off the anxiety, and instead helping you drift off into sleep by quieting the mind. This can indirectly help with depression, as low quality of sleep is one of the contributing factors to depressive thinking.

Gotta Try Different Things

Regardless of whether you experience ASMR when scrolling through a series of YouTube videos or not, there is potential for ASMR as a form of stress management, and even in the treatment of anxiety.

No evidence suggests that it has any meaningful effect on depressive thinking, but it may relieve a low mood in cases of mild depression. If you’re struggling with severe depressive thoughts, there might still be a chance that ASMR can help you. It could help you fall asleep, or help you relax or calm down if you’re fighting anxiety atop depression.

However, even if it doesn’t work for you, something will. We haven’t completely mapped out how different mental health conditions affect the brain, and how to best treat them on an individual level.

Treating Depression

There are a lot of modalities for depression treatment, and one of them is bound to work for you. There’s no way of knowing which treatments help and which don’t without giving it a go.

Treatment for depression includes therapy and medication. However, certain individuals respond better to certain types of treatment.

Talk therapy is often broken down into cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and group therapy. Antidepressant medication comes in different types as well and is not always effective or necessary.

Alternative treatments, such as certain types of movement therapy (like yoga) and acupuncture provide relief from depressive thoughts, from minor relaxation to feeling happier. Even rarer solutions like TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) show promise specifically on treatment-resistant depression.

Then there are lifestyle modifications to help treatment be more effective. Removing yourself from stressful situations in life, cutting out relationships that hurt you, quitting a job if it’s contributing majorly to your depression – all these things are important if you want treatment to work.

Furthermore, adding positive changes like a better diet or a consistent sleeping cycle can help. Spending less time staying up at night and making an effort to start the day early with enough sleep under your belt can make a difference.